It was a different MasterChef SA in episode 3 last night, with less action and more tears.  There also was a lot at stake for the final 25 contestants, a braai deciding which seven contestants had to leave the reality TV cooking programme, with the final 18 going through to the MasterChef SA kitchen at Nederburg, for the remaining fifteen episodes.

For the first time one got to know the contestants a little better, but the editors of the show were not consistent in providing their names.  It seemed that the chaps would have the advantage in this episode as the natural braaiers, but some of them did not make it through to the next round.  Filmed at the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg, the home of 2011 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Roots, the challenge put to the contestants was to cook a meal worthy of being served at this fine-dining restaurant.  Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said that the braai was the most basic form of cooking.  The dishes were expected to jump out at the judges, to shout ‘eat me’. Chef Pete also said that the biggest challenge with a braai is to control the heat source.

Few of the dishes would have made it into Roots restaurant, if Twitterers were the judges! Worrying was that the judges had such a disparate evaluation of the dishes, there being little conformity of appreciation, in most cases only two of the three judges evaluating any dish.  Chef Andrew Atkinson seemed over-dressed in his over-large suit for the braai, while Chefs Bennie Masekwameng and Pete looked more comfortable in their jackets.

Contestant Thys Hattingh admitted that he was not good at braais, and preferred making desserts.  He made both a meat dish and a beautiful dessert, the latter highly praised by the judges, as was Khaya’s dessert. The judges tasted ‘pap and vleis’ made by Jade de Waal, fillet of springbok, Surf and Turf, seared tuna, lemon butter hake, stuffed sirloin, hake sandwich, rump steak, and more braai dishes.

Very few contestants escaped the programme without a harsh word from a judge, comments directed at Bonguwusa’s dish which was described as ‘not award-winning’, ‘tasted like cardboard’, was ‘overcooked’, and was‘inedible’, probably the harshest criticism of the evening.  A piece of meat was described as a ‘brickette’. Another contestant cooking pap was criticised for the dish not working. Natalie was criticised for her dish being ‘too busy’, but she countered that it reflects her personality. She admitted that it was her first braai ever, loved by Chef Andrew and not liked at all by Chef Pete. Sarel Loot’s milk chocolate sauce served with his steak was described as ‘awful’ by Chef Andrew, and was criticised by Chef Bennie too, and could have cost him a place.  One contestant presented part of her dish in ‘ghastly’ tin foil, a serious fail. Bruce’s steak was described as ‘too busy’,not quite MasterChef’ standard.  Bruce, Timothy, Elton, Cameron, Callie-Anne, Natalie, and Bonguwusa did not make the final hurdle.

The heat was really on and the tears started to roll when the 25 contestants had to face the judges in small groups, and were reminded of their problems of the evening, and to hear who would be leaving and who would go through to the MasterChef SA kitchen.  The eighteen MasterChef SA finalists, with the Twitter addresses (most of them have started Tweeting) and city of residence from a Screen Africa listing, with 7 finalists from Cape Town and 5 from Johannesburg (with a surprise one from Namibia, given that is MasterChef SA) are as follows:

Babalwa Baartman  @LateBloomer26 from Cape Town

Berdina Schurink  @BerdinaSchurink from Pretoria

Brandon Law  @TheBrandonLaw from Johannesburg

Charles Canning  @CTHPipey from Cape Town

Deena Naidoo  @Deenamcsa from Durban

Fortune Kangueehi  @FKangueehi from Windhoek

Guy Clark @GuyClark2 from Cape Town

Ilse Fourie   @IlseNel from Cape Town

Jade de Waal  @FoodJams from Cape Town

Khaya Silingile  @KhayaSilingile from Johannesburg

Lungile Nhlanhla  @Lungzie from Durban

Lwazi Mngoma  @LwaziMngoma from Johannesburg

Manisha Naidu  @Manisha_Naidu from Johannesburg

Mmutsi Maseko from Johannesburg

Samantha Nolan  @SamanthaLNolan from Cape Town

Sarel Loots  @SarelvanSabie from Sabie

Sue-Ann Allen @Cook_Sista from Cape Town

Thys Hattingh  @Thys_Hattingh from Rustenburg

Advertisers were largely the same as in the past episodes, including good-enough-to eat ads for MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths’ steak and boerewors, sponsor Hyundai, Emirates, Outsurance, sponsor Robertson’s, Revlon, smeg, Frisco, Nedbank, KFC, VISA, Parmalat, Kenwood, and sponsor Nederburg.

In the next fifteen weeks the viewers will get to know the individual contestants better, and their personalities no doubt will come to the fore.  One hopes that the pace picks up again, this episode having lacked the pace and energy of the two preceding episodes.

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: In following the MasterChef SA final 18 contestants on Twitter, one wishes someone would teach them to Tweet.  Thys Hattingh is just providing links to the MasterChef SA website about each of his fellow contestants, and Sarel Loots is showing politics already by having blocked us, no doubt as sympathy support for Sonia Cabano, Robertson’s former Social Media Manager. Even more surprising is that Jade de Waal has locked her Twitter account recently, and one must request to follow her, which contradicts the reason for being on Twitter! Is this an ego getting too big?  Is she the MasterChef SA?  Or is it because she is related to Sonia Cabano (de Waal)?

POSTSCRIPT 4/4:  The Month, a newspaper distributed in the Winelands and Cape Town, has compared MasterChef SA and Australia. Our programme, after one episode, does not receive favourable feedback in the article.

POSTSCRIPT 5/4:  I have double-checked with Chef Pete Goffe-Wood about the road forward, not having watched any other MasterChef series before. One of the 18 finalists will be eliminated each week from now onwards.  The eighteen finalists know who the winner is, but they have been sworn to secrecy!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage